Patenting existing technology

Yet another ludicrious software patent has seen the light of day. ActiveBuddy has been granted a patent regarding Instant Messenger bots. In short the patent covers systems who can receive queries from remote computers and return an answer – all done via instant messenging.

The founder of ActiveBuddy, Tim Kay, claims:

"We invented interactive agents. […] We are a startup company and we have to protect our future.

Dear Mr. Kay, it is impossible for a company to be a startup and at the same time having invented interactive agents for Instant Messengers. Interactive agents (or bots), that respond to textual queries from remote computers, processes the query and returns an answer has been around for ages, utilizing several messaging protocols including ICQ, Microsoft Messenger and IRC.

By my hasty quasi research, I’ve managed to find the Eggdrop IRC bot that apparently has been around since 1993 – that is 7 years before ActiveBuddy was even founded.

The book, Bots: The Origin of New Species from 1997 describes several bots existing at that time (read extracts from the book here.

On The MUDdex you can find logs of bots responding to textual queries, dating back to 1989.

Mr. Kays answer when faced with the fact, that interactive bots existed long before ActiveBuddy was founded: “I’m not familiar with that”…